HOUSTON -- The Cincinnati Reds welcomed ace Johnny Cueto back into their rotation with a trio of two-run innings and kept pace in the National League Central pennant race with a 6-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Monday night at Minute Maid Park.
While Cueto (5-2) logged five shutout innings, the Reds (85-66) received offensive production from their usual suspects. First baseman Joey Votto and center fielder Shin-Soo Choo, who rank first and second in the NL in on-base percentage, reached base six times in their 10 plate appearances, going a combined 2-for-6 with four walks.
Cleanup hitter Jay Bruce finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs. Shortstop Zack Cozart was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and four RBIs.
The Astros (51-99) scratched across a run in the sixth off Reds reliever Alfredo Simon yet inched one loss closer to their third consecutive 100-loss season. Houston remains four games behind the Miami Marlins, who lost 12-2 to the Philadelphia Phillies, in the race for the worst record in the majors and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft.
Cueto, in his first appearance since making his third trip to the disabled list with a right lat strain on June 29, was both sharp and the beneficiary of early run support.
In particular, Cueto had Cozart to thank. Cozart slugged a two-out, two-run home run off Astros left-hander Erik Bedard in the second inning to spot Cueto a 2-0 lead. Cozart added a two-run single to center field -- also with two outs -- in the fourth to double the lead.
The Reds added two more runs in the fifth, this time off Astros right-hander Lucas Harrell. Bruce, who scored when Cozart delivered in the second and fourth innings, lined a two-run single to right field after the Reds loaded the bases with one out.
Cueto, meanwhile, set the Astros down in order only once during his five innings, but he didn't allow a run. Cueto threw just 82 pitches, giving up five hits and one walk while striking out five batters.
Bedard (4-11) gave up four runs on four hits in four innings.
NOTES: Votto extended his hitting streak at Minute Maid Park to 22 games with a leadoff single in the fourth inning. ... Bedard made his first start since Aug. 21 at Texas against the Rangers. He was 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in three relief appearances in the interim. ... Astros OF George Springer was one of eight position players named to MLB.com's All Prospect Team. Springer, 23, hit .303/.410/.600 with 37 home runs, 108 RBIs and 45 steals for Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City.